Ethiopia’s Communications minister, Getachew Reda, and the Oromo Democratic Front’s Lencho Bati speak with ‘UpFront’:
• Reda says, “The government is more than ready to welcome ODF” into Ethiopia and “I don’t see any problem for [ODF] to come here”
• Claims that Oromo opposition groups, like the ODF and the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) “have never done anything for the Oromo people”
• Denies the claims of a recent HRW report on the government’s brutal crackdown on Oromo protests across the country: “Human Rights Watch is not interested in the reality on the ground”…“They just pluck their numbers out of thin air”
• Bati expresses worry if the government refuses to meet the demands of the Oromo protesters: “They must open the political space, otherwise Ethiopia is sitting on a time bomb”
In an interview with Al Jazeera English’s current affairs show, UpFront, Getachew Reda, Ethiopia’s Government Communication Affairs minister and an aide to the Prime Minister, said he welcomes the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) to come back to the country.
“I don’t see any problem for [ODF] to come here,” Reda told UpFront host Mehdi Hasan.
Also joining the show was Lencho Bati, a former Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) spokesperson and a current executive committee member of the ODF, who pushed Reda to confirm the government’s willingness to negotiate: “Do you publicly today declare that the government is ready to welcome ODF to the country to participate in peaceful political struggle?” asked Bati.
“The government is more than ready to welcome ODF,” Reda responded. “As long as ODF breaks its ties with the terrorist organisation called OLF.”
Reda, however, went on to express his criticism of Oromo opposition groups.
“The problem with these people… not just ODF, but the OLF… They have never done anything for the Oromo people,” he said.
Reda also responded to a recently released Human Rights Watch report entitled, “Such a Brutal Crackdown: Killings and Arrests in Response to Ethiopia’s Oromo Protests.” The report claims at least 400 people have been killed, and thousands detained, since protests broke out across Ethiopia in November 2015.
“Human Rights Watch is not interested in the reality on the ground, nor does it have any representative here on the ground,” Reda said. “More often than not, they just pluck their numbers out of thin air.”
During the debate, Bati warned that the government’s failure to address Oromo grievances could be disastrous.
“They must open the political space,” he said. “Otherwise Ethiopia is sitting on a time bomb.”